Lamprey's travels make him a frequent visitor to San Diego, and his next visit will be on March 16 for Zane Patrick’s Day. He took a few minutes to chat about craft beer, San Diego, Zane Patrick’s Day, and his latest project.
Last year, you came out with your list of the top 25 beer cities in the world. San Diego did pretty well, coming in 7th. What makes a great beer city?
It’s a lot of things, and a lot of criteria go into it. On one side of it, there are a lot of cities in Europe that have really old breweries and beer brands, and old pubs and stuff like that, so it would almost be difficult to compete with that if that was the only criteria. For me, it’s a lot of things. It has to have great beer. It has to have a great variety of beer, but more specifically the people there need to be passionate about it. It also just needs to be a great place to drink, which makes San Diego one of my favorites. It was an easy choice to get into the top 10 because people there are so passionate about it. It’s just so easy to find someone who just goes bonkers over local craft beer.
Do you think we’re getting oversaturated with craft breweries?
We have way fewer craft breweries than we did back in the 30’s. I guess, maybe you could call it an oversaturation that led to prohibition in 1933, but I don’t think we do. If everybody’s looking to get rich, then that might be more difficult, but there’s such a demand for it that the local drinkers can sustain multiple breweries. It’s not just going out there and drinking what Greg Koch (of Stone Brewing) calls the “fizzy yellow stuff,” it’s going out there and trying something new every day if you want to. I like Arrogant Bastard, but I’m not going to drink it every day. It’s easy to mix it up and drink anything from the twenty-plus breweries that San Diego has.
Does American beer get respect overseas? Do Europeans respect American beer as much as Americans respect European imports?
It does, actually. It used to be, when I was in Ireland ten years ago, they would have Budweiser and Coors, and those were the imports. That was the expensive stuff. It was cheaper to drink Harp and Guinness than it was to up it a few euro and get a Bud. Now that these craft beers are out, Europe and Asia have caught on pretty good too, and they have a lot of American craft beers on tap as a more exotic thing to have. People the world over really have an appreciation for craft beer at this point.
What’s your take on the big breweries trying to cut into the craft beer business?
They’ve got to do what they’ve got to do, right? They’re businesses too. They all have shareholders that they have to keep happy. They have to if they’re going to stay relevant. It would be really difficult for any craft beer to take that big a chunk out of Budweiser, but it’s enough of a chunk that they have to be wary of it. It’s kind of like when Blockbuster wasn’t worried about Netflix, and then all of a sudden, “oops.” I don’t know if I agree with their tactics like buying up small microbreweries or creating a name that seems like a microbrewery, but if I was in their position, it’s probably what I would do.
You’ve been around the world and tried hundreds of beers. Which beers stick out the most to you?
I guess the ones that stick out are the ones that are unique. I’m physically in Maui right how, and I’m having dinner with my buddy Garret Marrero from Maui Brewing Company. Before he was a friend, I was a fan of his. Thankfully he was a fan of mine too, so we were able to get together. I love his CoCoNut Porter. I think it’s great, and it has such a unique taste. It’s like when you’re in Ireland, the Guinness just tastes better, and when you’re in Maui, the CoCoNut Porter does too.
What’s one beer that you’ve tried that you said to yourself “this is going to be weird,” but afterwards you said “this actually works?"
You know, oddly enough when you started asking that question, I was thinking about this beer that Garrett made out here. It was for the Maui Onion Festival, and he made an ale with Maui onions. At first I said “I don’t know,” and we tasted it, and it made you immediately want a cheeseburger. It was amazing! It was a little more savory, and a little earthier. It’s not something I would want to have every day, but it worked.
Your latest project is Monkey Rum. Southern California is supposed to be the test market, so when can we expect to see it?
Even more specifically, San Diego will be the test market. I’m talking right now with BevMo about launching it in 12 stores in San Diego. That will be where the rum launches, which I’m excited about. I love San Diego. If I can make an excuse, I tend to hang out there, and I have a lot of friends down there. We’ll have the locations soon, but it’s roughly about 30 days away. Once we see how it goes in San Diego, that will set the tone for how it launches around the rest of the country.
You host parties in San Diego quite often. You’ve been to the Belly Up. Mission Brewery, and this year McFadden’s pub. What keeps you coming back to San Diego?
I live in Los Angeles, and San Diego is like the place I wish I could live if I didn’t have to be so tied into the entertainment industry. I have a lot of friends down there, and every time I come to San Diego I make more friends. It’s where I wish I could live if I wasn’t so tied to Los Angeles. It’s where I probably will live in the very near future.
What can people expect at Zane Patrick’s Day?
I don’t know, because I don’t remember last year! It’s a good time. It’s a big St. Patrick’s Day party. We have a great band, the Bad Blokes. My buddy Steve McKenna from the show comes out. The whole crew from Drinking Made Easy will be out there, and we do a fun show. We mingle with the crowd, and we just have fun. It’s a party first and foremost, that’s what it’s for. It’s also an opportunity for me to rub elbows with people who watch the show, and just to have fun. It’s work, but it sure doesn’t feel like it.
Speaking of work, there are plenty of people who would love to drink for a living. What advice do you have for those young aspiring professional drinkers out there?
Just keep drinking. It’s funny; back in 2005. I was trying to get a job doing hosting work and stuff like that, and it just kind of happened. When I got the job hosting “Three Sheets,” going around the world drinking, I just kept wondering how to keep the job. It’s just a matter of just keep drinking, and keep having fun, and that’s what people responded to. Thankfully when that went off the air, Mark Cuban picked us up, and I’ve been able to keep doing it with “Drinking Made Easy.” At this point we’ve done over 100 episodes. I’ve been to sixty countries, and just about every state doing it. If you want to do what I do, it’s kind of what you have to do. Most people would lose their job if they drank, I would lose mine if I didn’t.